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Behind the Curtain: Madagascar The Musical

Starting this week, for the first time ever, Madagascar The Musical will be bursting out of the cage and onto the stage. And the good news is, you can see it first in London, it's going to be Roarsome! As we got an exclusive look into rehearsals last week, we thought it's only fair we take you behind the curtain to give a little insight into the production.

Utilising puppetry, storytelling and a modern score, Selladoor Worldwide's adaptation of DreamWorks' classic Madagascar The Musical is sure to make you Move It Move It, and promises to thrill diehard fans and musical theatre enthusiasts alike! With a suggested age recommendation of 5+ it even commits to providing something to keep any little ones entertained too. The behind the scenes exhibition took place 3Mills Studios and treated a small number of press to performances of two numbers and a Q&A hosted by Ian Brown. We witnessed performances of the opening, Showtime, a multifaceted song in which we meet all of the zoo inhabitants and get a flavour for what they are about, as well as cult-classic song from the film, I Like to Move It, which we are sure many will be relieved to know that it made it out of the movie and onto the stage. From what we saw, it is clear to see Jamie Lee Morgan's Melman is highly satirical, whilst Timmika Ramsay's Gloria is irresistibly vivacious. Antoine Murray-Straughn's Marty exuberates ostentation, as Jo Parsons' King Julien appears wholeheartedly true to the distinctiveness of the movie. The whole cast are just as Matt Terry says 'amazing'!

The musical stars the aforementioned, X Factor winner and trained musical theatre performer Matt Terry as Alex the Lion in his stage debut! His version of Alex exudes confidence and power. Talking about the casting process, he stated that as soon as he found out he was...

'really excited. It's an iconic movie, something that we all know from kids. I must have been, maybe ten years old. It's timeless and still going on now, with various spin-offs and movies still being released. You're going to see very iconic scenes, songs and speeches from the movie. There are some really cool moments in there exactly like the film. However, I think there'll be a nice surprise from the songs, costume and the set.'

On actually playing the role of Alex:

'My favourite part is probably being the King of New York City. It's pretty epic, his songs are amazing and the choreography is great. He's a very exciting role to play.'

As earlier mentioned Matt trained in musical theatre, he states that he had some great auditions for shows before finding fame in X Factor, noting that he kept being told he was too young until he fell into television and that went 'really well'. But now he feels like 'it's the right time' and he cannot wait for families to 'be a part of it'. 

Including all of the film's fan-favourites, from Gloria, Melman and Marty to the pesky Penguins and outrageous lemurs, the show sets the zoo animals' escapades to song with an extensive use of puppetry. Follow the pack as they escape New York's Central Park Zoo and stumble upon adventure that ultimately takes them to King Julien's Madagascar. Culminating with an in-your-face, loud and proud production, thanks to direction from Kirk Jameson, choreography from Fabian Aloise, design by Tom Rogers, lighting by Howard Hudson, sound from Chris Whybrow, musical supervision from Mark Crossland and puppet direction by Emma Brunton. 

On the subject of the adaptation, director Kirk Jameson explained that Madagascar The Musical:

'...follows the exact plotline of the first Madagascar film. Obviously, this story and these characters are globally iconic in a way and so we had a responsibility to look after these characters and this story and to make sure people were going to understand what they are going to see. But we also didn't want to follow the movie frame by frame, so what we've done is we've used it as a blueprint and gone off in our own little tangents at points, restructuring the show.'

He added 'This version has never been performed and has new songs. The first time I read the script, I became really aware that I wanted a lot of puppetry in the show. I felt that the smaller characters should be small, rather than human-sized. So when you put a penguin next a lion, there is a clear difference in size and there's a lot of comedy to be found in that...' 

As earlier mentioned, puppetry plays a big part in the show in order to truly bring to life the colourful creatures of the movie. Puppetry director Emma Brunton elucidated that...

'There are a lot of different types of puppets that Max Humphries and his team have created for us to use in this production. They have thrown us many challenges but also created some wonderful physicality's that we've been able to play with. There are lots of lemurs and monkeys and penguins, the penguins are very important. With each embodying a different trait as per the movie'.

Matt Terry added that...

'The only struggle really at the beginning was the puppets just because we were looking at the actors' faces instead of the puppets' mid-scene, but now that we've been taught and shown how to respond it's become second nature now.'

Emma goes on to state that...

'What's been great is these puppeteers have been able to embrace a physical reaction through themselves. So, whilst they are still putting all their focus and all their breath and all their performance through the puppet, the actual bodies of the puppeteers are physically echoing what we're asking the puppets to do. Which I think, creates an energy around the puppets themselves.' 

The show also has a few modern twists in order to really engage with young audiences, especially as it is a family show at its core. As director Kirk Jameson explained, the process of creating the show has been a collaborative effort, with the creatives really trying to utilise the talents they have in their cast in order to totally play to the strengths at their disposal. Therefore the show promises a lot of dynamic and fast-paced choreography, including the popular dance-craze 'flossing' which has taken the social media world by storm. The dance originates from an Instagram-famous American schoolboy, Russell Horning, known as the backpack kid. The team are clearly hoping the move will inspire many to leap up from their seats and join in. Antoine Murray-Straughn is also a keen rapper, therefore his version of Marty has been designed to have these slick, rap moments, whilst Timmika Ramsay's Gloria is calculated to play to her soul-diva style and temperament. 

We cannot wait for you to see Madagascar The Musical. Book your escape now!

Credits: Selladoor, iam Marketing, WhatsOnStage, Musical Theatre Musings.